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Good Riddance, Kyrsten Sinema, Plutocratic Shill

by California Digital News

Senator Kyrsten Sinema announced her retirement with a self-serving message about how she is too good for this fallen world — too committed to bipartisanship and progress when people just want anger and division.

As an explanation for why Sinema is giving up politics, this is obviously a total crock. Americans do appreciate bipartisan compromise. Sinema is not the only member of Congress who has been involved in legislation with both parties. But she is the only Democrat who incinerated her political career because the causes she chose to fight for are substantively awful and deeply unpopular.

Sinema rankled Democrats by mounting a deeply confused and ahistorical defense of the filibuster, falsely claiming that it was designed by the Founders (who, in fact, limited the supermajority requirement to specific matters and opposed it for general legislation) and that it protects social spending for the poor (which, in fact, can be cut by a majority under current rules). This position did anger liberals, but it’s not the kind of issue that engages the general public.

The stance that alienated Sinema from voters was her idiosyncratic attitude during negotiations over the Biden administration’s domestic-policy agenda. Sinema opposed letting the government negotiate the cost of Medicare prescription drugs, ultimately conceding to allow a dramatically smaller version of the reform Biden wanted. Even more amazing, she took a hard line against tax increases on the wealthy, even opposing limits on the notorious carried-interest tax loophole.

Sinema’s farewell message presents these stances as nonpartisan and anti-inflationary. “By standing up to short-sighted partisan ideas,” she said, “I protected our country’s economic growth and competitiveness and kept taxes low during a time of rampant inflation.”

This is the opposite of the truth. Both Biden and Trump promised during their campaigns to enable Medicare to negotiate drug prices and to eliminate the carried-interest loophole. She was blocking ideas of bipartisan consensus, not enabling them.

Even more bizarre is her claim that this stance somehow responded to “rampant inflation.” The textbook legislative response to high inflation is to impose tight fiscal policy that raises taxes and cuts spending. During the fiscal negotiations, that was the posture Senator Joe Manchin took. Sinema’s position was the opposite: She supported most of the spending increases favored by liberals but opposed all the ways they wanted to pay for them. Sinema had the single most inflationary impact on Biden’s agenda of any senator.

To the extent Biden managed to craft a bill that could be sold as an anti-inflationary measure — which it was, slightly — it was despite Sinema, not because of her.

The obvious reason she adopted these deeply unpopular positions on prescription-drug pricing and taxing the wealthy is almost certainly that she came to believe them. She seemed to grow close to the ultrawealthy and was an easy mark for even their most transparently unsound arguments.

There is plenty of room in the Democratic Party for a bipartisan dealmaker, and Sinema’s sob story should not deter anybody from pursuing that profile. There’s no room for a transparent shill for the self-serving rich.

The most generous interpretation of Sinema’s career arc is that she came to deeply and earnestly subscribe to the worldview of the wealthy people who surrounded her, to the point where she was willing to incinerate a promising political career to defend their interests. A less generous interpretation is that she was played for a sucker. In either case, the cause of bipartisanship will be no worse, and the Senate will be better off, without her.

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